Friday, December 31, 2010

Haikus: Ends, Starts, and Countdowns

Think about the Earth.
It just went around the Sun.
That's pretty awesome.

It's almost midnight.
I hope someone will kiss me.
Huh? What tradition?

Wouldn't it be great
If somebody dropped the ball
by not dropping it?

That Auld Lang Syne song
Is not a proper excuse
For ignoring calls.

Champagne? Why bother?
Just carbonate some vodka.
Now that's a real drink!

Resolution time...
Maybe I'll start working out?
Hahaha...yeah right.

Before kissing her
Remember just one li'l thing
Girls have cooties, dude!

Year end partying
Also means starting the year
A hungover mess.

It's a brand new year.
Try not to mess it all up
Like you did last time.

Hey guys, don't forget
To set all your calendars
Forward by one year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! *Smoooch!*

Book List 2010: 3/3


Half Empty
by. David Rakoff

A collection of essays regarding pessimism.

Not only was this, in my opinion, leagues better than David Rakoff's other books, it was also just a great book in general. Being somewhat of a pessimist myself, it is comforting to hear stories regarding why it isn't such a bad thing to be a pessimist, especially when the stories are hilarious.

“For now, how beautiful the world seems, how lovely the friends who deliver a potted amaryllis to my house. It blooms into a three-flowered stalk, its pink-and-white striped petals like a child's drawing of an ideal flower, if children could actually draw.”

The Shadow of the Wind
by. Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A boy comes across a rare book; rare because someone is out there burning every copy they can get their hands on. As he tries to keep the book safe, he slowly uncovers the mystery behind the author, the books, and the burner.

I really enjoyed this book, but for none of the reasons I first started liking it for. In the first parts of the book I really loved the fantastical nature of the story and the loving way it talks about books. However, it turns out the book isn't really a fantasy at all. The mystery and the characters are what the story really has to offer. It also turns out that the identity of the book burner isn't the biggest mystery (which is good because I guessed it right away). The mystery you find yourself wanting to know is what on Earth could have happened to all these people for things to turn out as they have.

“A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept.”

Sisters Red
by. Jackson Pearce

When they were young, two sisters, Scarlett and Rosie, were attacked by a werewolf. It killed their grandmother and disfigured Scarlett, before it could be stopped. Now the sisters have devoted their lives to killing these monsters. Or have they? When Rosie finds herself falling in love, she has to figure out if the hunt is really as important to her as it is to her sister.

As you may have guessed, this is a reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood. It is also what Twilight fans should have read instead. It is by no means perfect, but it is only Jackson Pearce's second book, so I'm willing to give her some leeway. Despite her novice status, she is still leagues beyond Stephenie Meyer. Here are some reasons why: she actually edited and proof read her book, the female characters are strong and capable of taking care of themselves, and the romance isn't at all akin to an abusive relationship. It's a simple book (I guessed the ending right at the starting gate), but it's quirky and memorable and fun.

“They’re adorned in glittery green rhinestones, shimmery turquoise and aquamarine powders streaked across their eyelids. Dragonfly girls. Their hair is all the same, long and streaked, spiraling down their backs to where the tiny strings holding their tops on are knotted tightly. Their skin glows under the neon lights-amber, ebony, cream-like shined metal, flawless and smooth.”

The Strain
by. Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

A plane arrives in New York City and everyone aboard it is dead. CDC Epidemiologist, Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, is part of the team called in to investigate, but he quickly learns that this wasn't a normal biological attack. Especially when the people on the plane start coming back to life.

This is a story about vampires, but told in the epidemic style usually reserved for zombies. If you've seen Blade II then you'll now that Guillermo del Toro is good, not only at working with vampires, but also with perverting vampires into creatures so much scarier than you've ever imagined them. I won't even go into specifics, but basically these vampires are all kinds of freaky. If that wasn't enough, the story is also presented through very unique lenses. The main characters all present very interesting and sometimes quite unique ways of looking at the story. My favorite three were the epidemiologist (who knows how to deal with disease, infections, and epidemics), the exterminator (who knows how to trap and kill vermin), and the holocaust survivor/vampire specialist (who knows all about horror as well as about these creatures).

“‘What you fought was a dead man, possessed by a disease.
What--like a pinche zombie?
Think more along the lines of a man with a black cape. Fangs. Funny accent. Now take away the cape and fangs. The funny accent. Take away anything funny about it.’”

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
by. Stieg Larsson

Lisbeth Salander is going to be put on trial for a laundry list of crimes including multiple accounts of murder. Meanwhile, Mikael Blomkvist continues to unearth the scandal that has been plaguing Lisbeth since she was born. Together they are trying not only to win Lisbeth's freedom, but also to put an end to a string of corruption that has infiltrated the government itself.

If you liked the first one, you'll like the second one. If you liked those two, then you're probably going to like this one as well. Mystery, excitement, the whole lot. So instead of saying anything further I'm going to take this space to rant about something in this book that annoyed the shit out of me: the B names. There are 14 characters in this book with last names beginning with the letter B. That is ridiculous. If that wasn't enough, the author usually refers to characters by their last names. So Blomvist will be talking to Berger and Beckman about what to do about Bjurman and Bublanski. It's like some kind of horrible joke. So here you are, all the B names in the book: Blomkvist, Berger, Beckman, Bublanski, Bjurman, Bjorck, Bodin, Baksi, Bohman, Berglund, Billinger, Borgsjo, Bladh, and Branden.

“Friendship is probably the most common form of love.”

Harriet the Spy
by. Louise Fitzhugh

A young girl dreams of being a spy. She keeps a notebook of all her observations about everyone she sees, even her friends. But what happens when her friends find out what she really thinks about them?

Things I loved about this book: the way it was able to capture the thoughts and feelings of being a child. Things I didn't like: Harriet and Harriet's nanny. Harriet is kind of an awful little kid. She looks for the worst in everyone and then frolics in her feeling of superiority. Her nanny was awful because she encourages Harriet to do it! Then when everyone finds out, she just tells Harriet to lie and pretend she's sorry and then keep writing in her journal anyway. What the hell!? Worst. Morals. Ever.

[Harriet] hated math. She hated math with every bone in her body. She spent so much time hating it that she never had time to do it.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
by. Lewis Carroll
illustrated by. Alison Jay

A young girl tumbles down a rabbit hole and into a fantastical world where nothing is as it seems.

I've never made it through this book before. I usually just get bored and quit. It really is an interesting and memorable story, but as a narrative it is horrible. It is just a bunch of random scenes thrown together. How exactly does Alice wind up in Wonderland? A random hole. How will she get back? Doesn't matter. Ending: It was all a dream. You've got to be joking me.

That being said please don't take my rant to mean that I hated the book. As a continuous narrative it is complete junk, but taken as separate pieces it is wonderfully clever, witty, and fantastical. I would especially recommend this particular version because the illustrations made the whole thing a hundred times better.

All in the golden afternoon
Full leisurely we glide;
For both our oars, with little skill,
By little arms are plied,
While little hands make vain pretense
Our wanderings to guide.”

Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There
by. Lewis Carroll
illustrated by. Mervyn Peake

A young girl steps through a mirror and into the bizarre world on the other side.

All my comments about the previous book work for this one as well. Except that as a narrative it is slightly more complete while its scenes are slightly less fun.

“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master— that's all.’”

The Gruesome Guide to World Monsters
by. Judy Sierra
illustrated by. Henrik Drescher

A handy guide to some of the monsters you might encounter in your journeys around the world.

I love books about different kinds of monsters. The only thing I like more than books about monsters is illustrated books about monsters. I hope to one day add this one to my collection of them because it was awesome.

“SURVIVAL TIP: Water babies will never harm children who throw their baby teeth into a lake or a river.”

The Wild Iris
by. Louise Gluck

A collection of poems regarding nature.

It was pretty good. I'm not a big fan of straight up poetry collections though. They are just a little too much for me. But there are certainly some gems in the collection. I'm especially fond of the quote I'm going to use.

“What are you saying? That you want
eternal life? Are your thoughts really
as compelling as all that?”

At Home:
A Short History of Private Life
by. Bill Bryson

Using the rooms of his house for inspiration, Bill Bryson takes a look at the history of private life.

I almost loved this book unequivocally. I mean, it's Bill Bryson; how could I not? However, I have some issues with it. The biggest one is that I wanted less history in general and more specific history regarding how different rooms came into existence and evolved. The book jacket claimed that he'd be using the rooms of the house as a lens for looking at the history surrounding it and yet the book is mostly just a straight up history of private life that uses the rooms for inspiration. For example in his chapter on the Cellar he briefly mentions that cellars were often used to house coal and then launches into a history of coal use and energy usage in general. Now don't get me wrong, it is a fascinating, fun, and informative chapter. BUT, I really learned nothing about cellars and frankly I was looking forward to learning about cellars.

Besides the slight miscommunication about the style of the book, it is so many kinds of amazing. Except for the first two chapters which were completely random and thus confusing. Although I get the feeling that maybe I was just too stupid to connect the dots. Who knows. Go read it and afterward help me understand what the point of those chapters was. Now that I know what to expect, when I inevitably read it again I'll probably enjoy it even more.

“Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010
edited by. Dave Eggers

A collection of literary gems from 2010. Including short stories, magazine headlines, band names, etc.

Like any collection I have mixed feelings about this one. The first section, where all the really wonderful bizarre stuff is held (the “Best American Sentences on Page 50” for instance), is pure genius. The second section, where the short stories are held, is hit or miss, but the majority of them are hits. Sherman Alexis' “War Dances” and Tamas Dobozy's “The Encirclement” were probably my favorites.

Samples from the Best American Gun Magazine Headlines: My Wife's Guns: I Thought Some Were Mine, but I Was Wrong, Kids and Guns: A Great Combination

The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish
by. Neil Gaiman illustrated by. Dave McKean

A boy trades his father for two goldfish. When his mom finds out she insists that he go and get his dad back, however, it turns out that might be a lot harder than he expected.

As those of you who know me might recall, I am not a fan of Neil Gaiman. However, I could not help myself from reading a book about swapping a dad for goldfish. I'm not really sure if this book works as a little kids book. It kind of reads like a story being made up on the spot. It does have numerous parts that are quite delightful, so I have to give it that. The illustration style is really unique and fun to look, but it is possibly a little too eclectic for a small child to appreciate.

“My little sister and I played in the garden. My sister played with her barbie dolls and I played at putting mud down my sister's neck.”

As I Lay Dying
by. William Faulkner

A family has to deal with the loss of its mother as they try to return to her hometown to bury her.

My biggest problem with this book is that the writing style is entirely too convoluted at certain parts. There were a number of times where I was reading it and not comprehending a single thing that was going on. That being said, when I could understand what was going on I thought it was great. I would describe it as a literary treat that becomes a little too literary at times. I should also mention that the character of Anse Bundren is the most despicable literary character of all time. I'd have to ruin the story to explain why, but, fictional or not, he is a truly horrible human being.

“Sometimes I aint so sho who's got ere a right to say when a man is crazy and when he aint. Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that-a-way. It's like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it's the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it.”

The Graveyard Book
by. Neil Gaiman

A little baby is the sole survivor when his family is murdered. He wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts residing there take him in and raise him as their own.

I was watching an interview with Neil Gaiman about the The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldish, but it turned out to actually be an interview about The Graveyard Book. As I said before, I am not a big Neil Gaiman fan. Every time someone exulted some book of his I would check it out and be horribly disappointed. Case in point: Sandman. After awhile I just decided to stop checking them out. Despite that history, the second I heard him describe the book as The Jungle Book, but with a graveyard instead of a jungle, I was all over it. And it was wonderful. You should read it. You should read it to some kids as well. I will own it one day and try to foist it onto small children.

“Truly, life is wasted on the living, Nobody Owens. For one of us is too foolish to live, and it is not I.”

Earth (the book):
A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race
by. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

A compendium on the human race for any aliens that might come visiting while we're away...or dead.

While the book is written as a compendium of the human race for aliens, I was expecting a textbook, like America (the book) was. Obviously it wasn't. But it was great anyway. Jon Stewart and all the people at The Daily Show are just so clever and funny. If you enjoy the sense of humor of their show then you'll get a kick out of the book.

“Due to scientific limitations and more than a touch of narcissism, we believed everything in the universe literally revolved around us. It was a theory called geocentrism, which was originally egocentrism, but they spelled it wrong.”

Machine of Death
edited by. Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki !

What if there was a machine that could tell you how you were going to die? Not when, but how, and it is never wrong. Would you want to know? This collection of stories seeks to answer all these questions and more.

This is a book that sprang to life from a comic strip. From humble beginnings three prominent figures in webcomics got together to seek submissions for such a book. It is a collection that is not only thought provoking, but also just fun to read. It really takes a look at just how such a machine would change, not only people, but also the world in general. The guys behind it are pretty brilliant. Case in point: when it came out they asked for all their fans to go to amazon and buy it on one particular day. That way it would rocket to the top of the charts. And it did! It beat out a new Grisham, it beat out Keith Richards' biography, it even beat out Glenn Beck! It is also the only book I read this year that you can read for free.

They are offering a free PDF of the book. Although, I would ask that if you like it, please buy a copy. The writers and illustrators aren't rich and famous. They even had to self publish it to get it made at all. So if you try it and you like it, throw them a bone.

“Missus Murphy, I will have you know that I am to be torn apart and devoured by lions.”

My Antonia
by. Willa Cather

The story of immigrant farmers, but mostly the story of a boy growing up in the late 1800s and his experiences with the girl next door.

For a book written in 1918 it is extremely accessible. If I hadn't looked at the publication date I would have sworn it was written recently. It is a pretty good book. It does a great job depicting life at the time. My only problem was that Antonia is supposed to be some amazing figure and yet I couldn't help but feel she wasn't all that special. In fact, I didn't really like her that much. I liked her in the beginning and I liked her at the end, but I don't like her the rest of the time. However, the main boy is okay and the story is more about him anyway.

“As I went back alone over that familiar road, I could almost believe that a boy and girl ran along beside me, as our shadows used to do, laughing and whispering to each other in the grass.”

Observations on the History & Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants
by. Robert Sullivan

A look into the world of rats.

I would describe Robert Sullivan's writing style as being like an unrefined Bill Bryson. They both combine observations/experiences with history and they both have penchants for indulging in historical tangents. Like Parasite Rex this book shines a loving light on a creature that dwells in the gutters of our thoughts. He brings up the interesting point that rats aren't really considered wildlife anymore. You probably won't find them in a guide to European Mammals or what not. And why would you? They don't live in the wild; they live with us. Just like the peace that comes with coming to terms with humanity's similarities to parasites, there is a peace in coming to terms with likeness to rats.

“Rats live in man's parallel universe, surviving on the effluvia of human society; they eat our garbage. I think of rats as our mirror species, reversed but similar, thriving or suffering in the very cities where we do the same. If the presence of a grizzly bear is the indicator of the wildness of an area, the range of unsettled habitat, then the rat is an indicator of the presence of man. And yet, despite their situation, rats are ignored or destroyed but rarely studied, disparaged but never described.”

Zen Shorts
by. Jon J. Muth

A group of children befriend a panda who uses zen stories to help them with their problems.

First of all the illustrations in this book are amazing. You want to just rip them out and hang them all over your wall. As someone who majored in East Asian Studies and an art lover, it seems like this book was written just for me. It is just the cutest thing ever. Not only is it great to look at, but it is written in a simple yet charming style that is perfect for a little kids' book. Plus what other children's book subtly teaches kids about Zen?

“‘I'm sorry for coming unannounced,’said the bear. ‘The wind carried my umbrella all the way from my backyard to your backyard. I thought I would receive it before it became a nuisance.’ He spoke with a slight Panda accent.”

The Giver
by. Lois Lowry

In a community where there is no pain, where everything is regulated, and where everyone has a role, a young boy is chosen for a unique position. He must become the one to hold all the memories the town has forgotten. But when he learns of a world of colors and family and love and even pain, will he be able to continue living as he did before?

The Giver is a book everyone should read. It is often required reading in school so that's good. It is a beautiful and powerful story. Like any good science fiction story it really makes you think about the world. Who wouldn't want a world where there was no war, no starvation, and no pain? Yet in order to rid yourself of all the bad things in the world, would you be prepared to give up all the good things as well? Or maybe through sharing memories and experiences we can have the best of both worlds.

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It's the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Book List 2010: 2/3

* = reread

Divine Misfortune
by. A. Lee Martinez

In a world where picking a god is a lot like picking an insurance carrier, a couple decides to try out a raccoon god of luck. Unfortunately now he wants to crash on their couch. Oh, and did he mention he's made enemies with the meanest God in town?

Despite the fact that I ragged on the guy in the last list, you'll notice that I keep reading his books, so it's a friendly sort of ragging. This one was a middle ground for him: it wasn't as amazing as his best, but definitely better than the other ones I read this year. He writes great potato chip books. They may not always have too much substance, but they're quick reads and they're just fun. Some delightful imagery: a god in the market of revenge on ex-boyfriends, a squirrel being forced to carry beers, and a house party held by Gods.

“Hello. My name is Anubis. I Like long walks on the beach, carrying departed souls into the underworld, and the cinema of Mr. Woody Allen.”

Prodigal Summer
by. Barbara Kingslover

3 interconnecting stories about nature, love, and the connection between the two.

This really is a beautiful book. I'm not even sure what else to say. If you're into nature and/or romance you'll like it.

“This is how moths speak to each other. They tell their love across the fields by scent. There is no mouth, the wrong words are impossible, either a mate is there or he is not, and if so the pair will find each other in the dark.”

His Majesty's Dragon
by. Naomi Novik

It's the early 19th century and dragons make up nations' aerial forces. Through a twist of fate, a Captain in the Royal Navy, William Laurence, winds up the handler of a newly hatched dragon and is forced to join Britain's air force to do what he can to repel Napoleon's forces.

It's the Napoleonic Wars...but with Dragons! If I really need to say anything else then maybe this book isn't for you.

“I am beginning to feel the need of a glass of wine to fortify myself against this conversation.”

Bringing Down the House:
The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas For Millions
by. Ben Mezrich

The true story of the brilliant MIT students who figure out a system to beat the odds at blackjack. They make a whole lot of money, and a whole lot of enemies.

Damn, Vegas is a pretty crazy place. Also some people are ridiculously smart. I read this because Prince Gomolvilas touted it as the greatest piece of Asian American literature of all time. Maybe it is. While perhaps it isn't the greatest book in a literary sense, certainly no one can say that a young Asian American would not feel at least a little bit of pride upon reading the story of a group of Asian Americans, who through their intellect, skill, and charm, took Vegas for millions of dollars.

“...Kevin watched the flickering lights and wondered if life could possibly get any better. He had seventy thousand dollars in a money belt around his waist and another quarter million back in his room. Card counting was the key that had unlocked the casino's coffers, and there was no reason to think the party ever had to end.”

Parasite Rex:
Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures
by. Carl Zimmer

A look into the world of parasites.

I already reviewed this go read that. In case you don't want to bother, I will sum it up: Parasites are so much more fascinating than you ever thought possible and book is pretty great.

“There's no shame in being a parasite.”

The Cardturner
by. Louis Sachar

A young boy learns how to play bridge from his blind grandfather, but when his grandfather dies he must learn to play the game for himself.

Another book that really wasn't aiming at me, which makes my opinion on it kind of void. I will say, however, that Louis Sachar is a great writer. Even when writing a simple story like this one the story flows so smoothly that you hardly notice just how smooth it is. Apparently he just wanted to write a book about Bridge and didn't care what anyone else said. If nothing else, that passion makes it interesting. It's a rather laid back narrative about bridge and a kid finding something he's passionate about.

"I hope I remember everything," said Toni.

“You won't," said Trapp. "That's how you learn. But after you make the same mistake one, or two, or five times, you'll eventually get it. And then you'll make new mistakes.”

The Male Brain
by. Louann Brizendine

A book about the physiology of the male brain.

I found Brizendine's earlier book, The Female Brain, to be really fascinating and eye opening. This one, however, lacked the vigor and excitement she brought to the first one. It seemed like she wrote it for the paycheck. Maybe I should be judging it on its own and not comparing the two, but since it is basically a sequel, I think I'm allowed. Then again, I'm a male so there is a decent chance that I just took the information in this book for granted and thus it wasn't as eye opening an experience as the previous one. It's an easy read and you'll learn about the male brain, so there you go.

“If testosterone were beer, a nine-year old boy would get the equivalent of about one cup a day. But by age fifteen, it would be equal to two gallons a day.”

Willful Creatures
by. Aimee Bender
A collection of fantastical short stories.

I'm a sucker for memorable and interesting short stories and these were some truly interesting and memorable short stories. I read this thing months ago and, unlike many of the books I've read this year, I can still recount to you pretty much the entire book. Definitely one of my favorite things I read this year.

“My genes, my love, are rubber bands and rope; make yourself a structure you can live inside.


Crocodile on the Sandbank
by. Elizabeth Peters

A forward woman and her traveling companion go on an Egyptian adventure only to find themselves in danger, in love, and in the way of a murderous mummy.

Think Pride and Prejudice, but taken up a notch, put into Egypt, and occasionally dealing with mummies. Right off the bat I'm going to say this book didn't have nearly as much mummy action as I was led to believe there'd be. On another note, while Elizabeth Bennent was right to be so bold, the main character in this one is just pompous at times. I mean, who complains that an archeologist's lab is dirty? Dirty things are kind of their trade. And they aren't telling you not to touch anything because you're a woman, they're telling you not to touch anything because it's all freaking fragile and you're an idiot. She eventually tones it down and you start to like her, but damn if you don't want find yourself wishing someone would smack her a little bit in the beginning.

“Peculiar or not, it is my idea of pleasure. Why, why else do you lead this life if you don't enjoy it? Don't talk of duty to me; you men always have some high-sounding excuse for indulging yourselves. You go gallivanting over the earth, climbing mountains, looking for the sources of the Nile; and expect women to sit dully at home embroidering. I embroider very badly. I think I would excavate rather well.”

Dear Mister Rogers, does it ever rain in your neighborhood?:
Letters to Mr. Rogers
by. Fred Rogers

A collection of children's letters to Mr. Rogers and his responses.

Mr. Rogers is pretty much the nicest guy in the world. I grew up watching him and I love him to death. What would you say if a little kid was a fan of yours and wrote you a letter pridefully telling you that they just learned how to use the potty? I didn't think it was possible, but it turns out there is a way to handle that with poise. The man is amazing and the book is darling.

“Dear Mr. Rogers,

How did you get your face on all our pennies?
Your face is on the front and your Trolley's on the back...

Penn, age 4”

The Girl Who Played With Fire
by. Stieg Larsson

An antisocial computer hacker and a headstrong journalist work to get to the bottom of a secret ring of prostitution and human trafficking.

I'm just noticing that I apparently went from reading a book by mister rogers to reading a gritty crime story. There's probably something seriously wrong with that. Anyways I saw The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie and decided I wanted to read the books. Turns out a lot of other people had that same idea because the queue at the library was enormous. Therefore I decided to put my name on the lists for all 3 books and save myself some trouble. I ended up getting this one first, but since I had seen the movie I figured I wouldn't be that lost so I rolled with it. It's very good. Personally I think the series deserves all the hype its been getting.

“But she wished she had had the guts to go up to him and say hello. Or possibly break his legs, she wasn't sure which.”

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
by. Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith

The book that answers that age old question of what if Pride & Prejudice had zombies in it?

The name pretty much says it all doesn't it? It is everything you would expect. I especially enjoyed what happens to Wickham in this version. Also the discussion questions at the end are hilarious. While any zombie fan might enjoy this book, I'll just say that to really appreciate this book you need to be a Pride&Prejudice fan, because the subversion of the original text is really the best part about it.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

by. Sebastian Junger

A reporter lives with one of the most dangerous units in Afghanistan to learn what war is like for soldiers.

So often books will focus on a war but not on the people fighting it. This book does a great job giving you a look into the mind and experiences of the people on the front lines. From all the good to all the bad. It also dares to say things that many would maybe try to gloss over. For instance, the fact that soldiers often enjoy what they do. It's easy to think of a soldier in terms of a draftee in Vietnam, but soldiers who choose that life are different. They like getting to use big guns and they like taking down bad guys. Some probably even love the smell of napalm in the morning. To do what they do and not go crazy they have to. Being able to see war from the point of view of a soldier really makes you appreciate what it is they do, but it also makes you appreciate why the Government and military big wigs need to be careful about what they tell them to do.

“Society can give its young men almost any job and they'll figure how to do it. They'll suffer for it and die for it and watch their friends die for it, but in the end, it will get done. That only means that society should be careful about what it asks for. ... Soldiers themselves are reluctant to evaluate the costs of war, but someone must. That evaluation, ongoing and unadulterated by politics, may be the one thing a country absolutely owes the soldiers who defend its borders.”

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
by. Stieg Larsson

A defamed journalist is hired to get to the bottom of a family's loathsome past and finds help in an unexpected source: a fearsome and intelligent computer hacker.

First off, as I said before, I saw the movie first. Second off, I loved the movie. Thirdly, the book is even better than the movie. Although I should mention that it does contain some very brutal scenes. In fact, I've seen many reviews that say this series is nothing but exploitation. Personally, I didn't see it that way. For one, I don't believe the author is showing that violence for cheap thrills, but is showing it in order to portray just how horrific those acts are, to show the lasting scars from the point of view of the victim. The original Swedish title for the book was Men Who Hate Women, which I think is rather telling. For two, in Lisbeth Salander, Larsson has crafted a character uniquely suited to bear the weight of these acts; to be victimized, but to never be a victim.

All the shock value aside, the narrative structure of the book is pretty intriguing. While journalist Kiel Blomkvist is the force the propels the story forward, these books are really all about Lisbeth Salander. So in a sense the main character is a supporting character. Even if the book wasn't interesting and exciting she would make it worth checking out. She's smart, she's tough, she's self-reliant, she's flawed, and she's fascinating. How often do you find a character so interesting that they've single-handedly made a series a bestselling franchise?

I've had many enemies over the years. If there is one thing I've learned, it's never engage in a fight you're sure to lose. On the other hand, never let anyone who has insulted you get away with it. Bide you're time and strike back when you're in a position of strength - even if you no longer need to strike back.

Adventures Among Ants:
a global safari with a cast of trillions
by. Mark W. Moffett

It's a science book about ants.

If you read one book about ants this year, make it this one...what do you want? Nonfiction books are hard to write opinions for. Moffett is the kind of guy who will spend days staring at ants and actually love doing it and his passion is infectious. If you aren't interested in ants enough to want to read a big ol' book about them, I'd still suggest finding it to just look at the amazing pictures (some examples of his work). Ants are a lot more interesting than I originally gave them credit for. Although the parts where Moffett is talking about his time in the field are still my favorites. Especially the part where he tries to impress a couple ladies by telling them he's an entomologist (sexy right?). The book is quite in-depth and long which makes it a little tedious to just read straight through (unless you're really into ants of course), but as long as you read it bit by bit it remains fascinating.

“...Any ant recognized as an ant is female; males do exist, but they are socially useless...”

Physics of the Impossible:
A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel
by. Michio Kaku

A look into the plausibility of science fiction.

Physicist Michio Kaku is amazing. While he does write in a very accessible manner, I quickly realized that this man was so far beyond me intellectually that I am a idiot child in comparison. He co-founded the string field theory for God's sake! However, he is still no Neil deGrasse Tyson and thus he gets pretty heavy on the science at times and if you aren't very science literate you'll probably have some trouble following along. I consider myself to be at least a little science literate and I certainly felt a little lost a couple of times. With that being said, this book is awesome. You have to be at least a little bit nerdy to think so though. He does a great job at not just saying what is and is not possible, but also the whys. If something isn't quite possible as depicted in science fiction movies, he'll go into how maybe something similar could be. If you're a big nerd you should definitely go read this book.

“Already one “impossible” technology is now proving to be possible: the notion of teleportation (at least at the level of atoms). Even a few years ago physicists would have said that sending or beaming an object from one point to another violated the laws of quantum physics. The writers of the original Star Trek television series, in fact, were so stung by the criticism from physicists that they added “Heisenberg compensators” to explain their teleporters in order to address this flaw. Today, because of a recent breakthrough, physicists can teleport atoms across a room or photons under the Danube River.”

by. China Miéville

A museum curator is thrust into the world of the preternatural when his museum's giant squid specimen goes missing and sinister forces start looking in his direction for answers.

I love China Miéville. He is definitely one of my favorite authors. He creates these worlds that are so imaginative while being, in a way, so realistic. This one was a slight departure for him. It was much more similar to his young adult's book Un Lun Dun than to his famous Perdido Street Station. That's because like Un Lun Dun, Miéville is having fun with this one. It's a combination of dark urban fantasy and a light hearted fairy tale. The trick to loving it is to realize that it is not some straight-laced story, but a playground of ideas where the laces are flying free. A lot of his other books are serious, but this one is just geeky and fun. The biggest thing I can say against it is that the characters aren't anything special. Then again I don't really care. They aren't the point. The world is the point. You've got a world filled with talking tattoos, paranormal Star Trek fans, human oragami, animal mediums on strike, and even squid cults. It is an absolute blast to read.

“The krakens’ lack of desire for recompense was part of what, their faithful said, distinguished them from the avaricious Abrahamic triad and their quids pro quo, I’ll take you to heaven if you worship me. But even the kraken would give them this transmutation, this squid pro quo, by the contingencies of worship, toxin and faith. ”

by. Mira Grant

In a post apocalyptic zombie world, a group of bloggers follow a presidential candidate on his campaign trail. But what's more dangerous: zombies or politicians?

Two different books with the same name in the same year. What are the odds? I picked this one up on a whim thinking it would good for a laugh, but it took me completely by surprise. It is actually one of the best things I read this year. It is part political/journalistic thriller, part comedy, and part horror movie. If there was ever a movie version it's be done by Joss Whedon. So many zombie stories focus on the outbreak, but this one goes at it in a completely different direction. It shows a post outbreak world in vibrant detail. You see exactly how the outbreak changed things. One of the great things about it is that it is tackling a silly subject seriously, but never forgets that the subject is, at its heart, silly. For instance, the main characters are named Georgia (after George Romero), Shaun (after Shaun of the Dead), and Buffy (after Buffy the Vampire Slayers). The political and journalistic intrigue is so well done that you sometimes forget it's a zombie book! I can't say enough great things about it. It is just too much fun.

The difference between the truth and a lie is that both of them can hurt, but only one will take the time to heal you afterward.

Johannes Cabal:
The Necromancer
by. Jonathan L. Howard

A necromancer with loose morals tries to get out of his deal with the Devil by making a deal with the Devil. With only a monstrous carnival and a vampiric brother to help him, Cabal has a year to collect 100 souls or else lose his last chance to get his soul back.

One of my favorite things about China Miéville is that he is verbose, but his verbosity always fits his writing like a glove. I couldn't help thinking this author was trying to use big words just for the sake of using big words. That being said it was still a fun book. Nothing amazing, but a great potato chip read. The main character is really the main reason for reading it. He is such an anti-hero that you can't help but love him a little bit. I mean the hero of the story is trying to collect souls for the devil in order to serve his own agenda! He isn't a nice man, but he isn't necessarily a bad man either, and that's what makes him so interesting.

“"It's a philosophical minefield!"

Cabal had a brief mental image of Aristotle walking halfway across an open field before unexpectedly disappearing in a fireball. Descartes and Nietzsche looked on appalled.”

More Information Than You Require
by. John Hodgman

A book of true facts that are absolutely false.

I was laughing so hard at this book that a girl at the bus stop had to ask me if it was really that funny. Answer: it really is that funny. Sadly the resulting conversation was short lived as her bus came before I could explain what it was about, but still it remains the only book that has helped me attract a pretty girl (apparently reading books about ants and zombies just doesn't cut it). Do I actually need to describe the book? Isn't the fact that I not only laughed out loud, but attracted a cute girl enough of a recommendation? No? Okay, well, it is a follow up to The Areas of My Expertise (an almanac of complete world knowledge), which was equally hilarious. Like its predecessor it is an almanac full of absolutely true facts that are entirely made up. It sounds bizarre, but trust me when I say it was the funniest damn thing I read all year.

“A stopped clock is correct twice a day, but a sundial can be used to stab someone, even at nighttime.”

God is Not One:
the eight rival religions that run the world—and why their differences matter
by. Stephen Prothero

A look at the biggest religions in the world and why their differences are important.

I'm sure at one time or another you've heard that argument that all religions are the same, but they really aren't. Each religion has a completely different goal and thus a completely different way of obtaining it. Saying religions are all the same ignores their fundamental natures. The book's purpose is to illustrate those natures. So not only is it giving you a crash course on the history of the world's 8 biggest religions, but it is also showing how these beliefs translate into people's everyday lives.

“And both tolerance and respect are empty virtues until we actually know something about whomever it is we are supposed to be tolerating or respecting.”

a new history of the invention of America
by. Jack Rakove

A look at the revolutionary war through the lens of its prominent figures.

History often ignores the individual in favor of the overall narrative. But this tends to whitewash the story and you miss out on all the great character bubbling through history. I find it hard to describe my thoughts on this book because I both loved and hated it. The chapters went from ones so interesting I couldn't put it down, to ones so boring I couldn't wait to put it down. If anything, it does portray a more interconnected view of the revolutionary figures than the usually partitioned view of a history book.

“Like many a provincial intellectual, the young John Adams harbored ambitions and dreams that outran anything his society could promise to satisfy. Had the American Revolution not intervened, the most life could have offered him was a reasonably prosperous career as an attorney.”

House of Leaves
by. Mark Z. Danielewski

The story of things that aren't what they appear and a man whose house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

This was the my absolute favorite book of the year. I loved it so much I immediately bought a copy for myself. It is both intellectually stimulating and narratively engrossing. While it isn't the best book I've ever read, it is by far the most interesting book I've ever read. Through story structure, as well as typography and design, the book takes you on a crazy journey that makes you question everything. As you read it you feel frightened and confused and intrigued. And you hardly realize that these feelings are mirroring the characters in the story, putting their thoughts into your head so subtlety you didn't even realize what was going on. Even if you don't care about the technical mumbo jumbo of it, the story is fascinating.

A man discovers that his house is bigger on the inside than on the outside. He then subsequently finds a mysterious hallway that leads to a place that should not be possible and you're along for the ride. The setting of this realm is in its very essence terrifying which makes the house itself the most fascinating monster you've ever read about. I'll admit it isn't for everyone. You have to think as you read this one. I couldn't put it down, but sometimes I had to because after too long my head just couldn't keep up the pace and started feeling fatigued.

“To get a better idea try this: focus on these words, and whatever you do don’t let your eyes wander past the perimeter of this page. Now imagine just beyond your peripheral vision, maybe behind you, maybe to the side of you, maybe even in front of you, but right where you can’t see it, something is quietly closing in on you, so quiet in fact you can only hear it as silence. Find those pockets without sound. That’s where it is. Right at this moment. But don’t look. Keep your eyes here. Now take a deep breath. Go ahead take an even deeper one. Only this time as you start to exhale try to imagine how fast it will happen, how hard it’s gonna hit you, how many times it will stab your jugular with its teeth or are they nails?, don’t worry, that particular detail doesn’t matter, because before you have time to even process that you should be moving, you should be running, you should at the very least be flinging up your arms—you sure as hell should be getting rid of this book—you won’t have time to even scream.

Don’t look.

I didn't.

Of course I looked.

I looked so fucking fast I should of ended up wearing one of those neck braces for whiplash.”

Johannes Cabal:
The Detective
by. Jonathan L. Howard

Johannes Cabal is back, but this time, while running from the law, he is forced into the role of detective as he tries to get to the bottom of a murder aboard a zeppelin.

Johannes Cabal is on the run from powerful foes after he pisses off an entire country. I think the first one had a better plot, but this one was written a lot better. A fun read. Once again that has a lot to do with Cabal. He's pretty great.

“The only more immediate alternative that I can think of is a Tantric ritual involving necrophiliac sodomy and, frankly, I don't think my back is up to it.”

Bill Bergson and the White Rose Rescue
by. Astrid Lindgren

It's up to young Bill Bergson and pals to rescue a scientist and his son from a sinister businessman after their secret formula.

In the Millenium trilogy it is alluded to that Lisbeth Salander is based on Pippi Longstocking while Kiel Blomkvist is based on Bill Bergson (both characters from Astrid Lindgren books). I was already familiar with Pippi Longstocking, but I had never heard of Bill Bergson. So I went to the library and picked up a Bill Bergson book. For young readers it turns out Bill Bergson is the star of some pretty good books. Not the kind of thing that interests me enough to read the other books in the series, but definitely something to consider reading to the young kids in your life who are starting on chapter books. Kids love stories about kids besting evil criminals and saving the day.

“The White Roses were three: Bill Bergson, master detective; Anders, his faithful assistant; and the cocky, reckless Eva-Lotta.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book List 2010: 1/3

        As some of you might know, Emily Horne and Joey Comeau's A Softer World is one of my absolute favorite comics. What you might not know is that Emily Horne has a journal and every year puts out a list of every book she's read and movie she's watched. I've always felt this was an great idea. It not only only allows you to look back at all the things you've read, but also provides others with an interesting data depiction of yourself. This year I finally decided to try my hand at it. Well, technically it isn't a complete list, because I only started recording them at the beginning of May, but it's the best you're gonna get.

        My main problem with Emily Horne's list is that she only gives a list of titles and authors and an occasional comment. This means you really don't always know what all those titles are unless you're willing to do a bunch of research. So to help you out, along with the title and author you'll also find: a short description, some of my thoughts on it, and a quote from it. All this data, however, means that in order to not have one horrible freak post I'm going to break it up into three pieces. Here is piece the first.

* = reread
[A] = audio book

1. *
Small Gods
by. Terry Pratchett

A once powerful God suddenly finds himself trapped in the body of a tortoise with only one follower to his name. Together they delve into the depths of religion to get him back to his proper place.

Terry Pratchett is my favorite author. He has that rare gift of being able to be laugh-out-loud funny while saying something deeply profound. In this one he turns his satirical lens on the world of religion. In a book joking about religion it would be easy to assume an arrogant atheist stance and mock the beliefs of others as silly, but Pratchett doesn't do that. Yes, he does harpoon some ideas about God, criticizes the dangers of blind faith, and shows how religion can be used to advance personal agendas. But the story focuses on the character Brutha, the only follower of a fallen God. He is shown to be smart, thoughtful, and questioning. It is through him we are able to see the strength and comfort of believing in something bigger than yourself.

“He looked nervous, like an atheist in a thunderstorm.”

2. *
Going Postal
by. Terry Pratchett

A crook is given a choice: death or becoming the Post Master of the city's ramshackle Post Office.

This is the first discworld book to introduce Moist von Ludwig, and the Moist books have quickly become some of my favorite Discworld books. The book's depiction of a conman being forced to run a profoundly out-of-whack Post Office is just wonderful. In addition the characters themselves are so hilarious and engaging that you'd hardly need a plot at all. Yet there is a plot and it is full of excitement, romance, and adventure.

“Would you like to have dinner tonight?”
“I like to have dinner every night. With you? No.”

Too Many Curses
by. A. Lee Martinez

A kobold named Nessy must try to keep a magical castle full of accursed inhabitants in order after her cruel master gets his just desserts and an evil sorceress comes calling.

Martinez is an interesting author in that he either knocks it out of the park or strikes out. Sadly I felt this was a bit of a strike out. Although even the strike outs are still fun because he is so good at coming up with such memorable pieces of imagery. So sure the plot was weak and the protagonist is pretty lame, but all around the periphery of the story are all sorts of delightful little jokes and characters. It's a simple book that you can read pretty quickly and you'll get some chuckles and memorable moments out of it.

Aren't we going to read tonight?” asked the monster under her bed.

She kept her eyes shut. “I'm sorry. Maybe tomorrow.”

“This is two nights in a row.”

“I've been very busy,” she mumbled softly. She'd nearly drifted off when he spoke up again.

“There's someone else, isn't there?”

Monstrous Regiment
by. Terry Pratchett

With a haircut and a sock down her trousers a young girl disguises herself as a boy to join her nation's army. However, she quickly learns it wasn't what she was expecting when her regiment finds itself in the center of the war.

Sadly, I was a little disappointed with this one. Looking back I think that my disappointment wasn't because of what the book was, but was because what it was wasn't what I was expecting it to be (tongue twister much?). If I read it again I'd probably enjoy it a lot more. I expected there to be a lot more Vimes in it. Vimes is my favorite Discworld character so I spent most of book wondering why he wasn't in more of it. My friend, another Pratchett fan, read it after I did and said he really liked it, so there you go. There's lots of actions, lots of laughs, and lots of tough women kicking guys' asses.

“The enemy isn't men, or women, it's bloody stupid people and no one has the right to be stupid.”

The Nameless Witch
by. A. Lee Martinez

An undead witch with a taste for flesh and her talking duck go on a quest to avenge their master's death. They join up with a handsome white knight and the witch must struggle with her desires to love him and to eat him.

Another strike out for Martinez. But like before it's a simple quick read that'll spark your imagination and give you some chuckles. I mean there's a killer duck and a woman who wants to eat the man she loves. I mean it's kinda worth it just for that.

“It's easy to defeat life-or-death ordeals. Such tribulations demand success. It's the small tests that require something more from us. When we can turn and walk away is when we find what we're made of.”

Tokyo Suckerpunch
by. Issac Adamson

Billy Chaka is supposed to be writing a story about a martial arts tournament in Japan, but instead he is trying to solve a murder and find a geisha.

I don't even know how to describe this book. It has melted in my mind into a puddle of assorted scenes. It is a slighty odd and slightly fantastical (but not really) kind of book. Rest assured that in this book you will find: Billy Chaka stealing a punk kid's motorcycle, a man who made a career out of making bad movies, a mysterious geisha, and a truly bizarre secret brothel. If you're in the mood to read a funny story about a guy with a penchant for karate awkwardly adventuring through Japanese society, you'll probably love it.

“I slipped on my cowboy gear, donning both the bandanna and the Lone Ranger mask, and pulling the big cowboy hat low over my eyes. Billy Chaka, paranoid cowboy.”

Bet Me
by. Jennifer Cruise

A woman's friends bet her to go out with a guy, while the guy's friends bet him to go out with her. They hate each other, then they love each other.

The best description I can give for this book is that it is exactly like reading a romantic comedy movie. It is rather delightful. I only really had two big issues with it. The first is the fact that there's this kid in it who gets sick whenever he eats doughnuts. Despite this that kid just keeps eating doughnuts! I don't know about you, but if I threw up every time I ate a doughnut I would never eat doughnuts. I mean, is a minute of enjoying the taste of a doughnut worth the subsequent taste of vomit in your mouth? No. No it is not. The second thing is that these characters eat way too much Chicken Paramasean. I swear there is a week where they eat nothing else. That is absurd.

“'I'm Min's fairy godmother, Charm Boy,' Liza said, frowning down at him. 'And if you don't give her a happily ever after, I'm going to come back and beat you to death with a snow globe.'”

Charmed Life
by. Diana Wynne Jones

A strange boy and his sister are orphans. They get adopted by a very rich and powerful wizard. The boy turns out to have more powers than people would have thought at first.

How do you describe a book that is done well, but just isn't your thing? The whole thing reads as if someone wanted to write a Harry Potter-esque book in the style of His Dark Materials. However, it didn't have the over the top fun of Potter or the scope and excitement of Compass. If you're looking for my opinion I'd say read one of those series instead, but that's just me.

“He was practising away one evening, when Gwendolen stormed in and shrieked a spell in his face. Cat found, to his dismay, that he was holding a large striped cat by the tail. He had its head tucked under his chin, and he was sawing at its back with the violin bow. He dropped it hurriedly. Even so, it bit him under the chin and scratched him painfully.
'What did you do that for?' he said.”

The Lives of Christopher Chant
by. Diana Wynne Jones

The story of a young boy, who just happens to be a powerful wizard, is just as good at getting into trouble as he is at dying.

This is a prequel to that last one and you know what? I enjoyed it much more. A large part of it takes place in dream worlds and that provides a much more interesting fantasy setup than the previous book offered. If you're interested in checking these books out I'd say read this one first. That way you'll enjoy the other one more because you'll get to see how the kid has grown up.

“I must be the only person in the world ever to be punished for breaking my neck!”

10. *[A]
Me Talk Pretty One Day
by. David Sedaris

David Sedaris tries to learn french and other essays.

I don't know how to describe collections of essays. I love David Sedaris. This is probably my favorite of his books and that is saying something. It's hilarious, it's witty, it's wonderful, I've read/listened to it so many times that I've lost count.

“On my fifth trip to France I limited myself to the words and phrases that people actually use. From the dog owners I learned 'Lie down,' 'Shut up,' and 'Who shit on this carpet?' The couple across the road taught me to ask questions correctly, and the grocer taught me to count. Things began to come together, and I went from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. 'Is thems the thoughts of cows?' I'd ask the butcher, pointing to the calves' brains displayed in the front window. 'I want me some lamb chop with handles on 'em.'”

by. David Rakoff

A collection of essays by David Rakoff.

I can't remember too much about this one. I recall it being enjoyable, but that it tended to sway between delightful and tedious.

“I find life itself provides ample and sufficient tests of my valor and mettle: illness; betrayal; fruitless searches for love; working for the abusive, the insane, and the despotic. All challenges easily as thrilling to me as scrambling over icy rock in a pair of barely adequate boots.”

12. [A]
When you are Engulfed in Flames
by. David Sedaris

David Sedaris tries to quit smoking by going to Japan and other essays.

As you may have noticed I tend to listen to David Sedaris' audio books because I think he is a wonderful story teller and his voice just adds something to the stories. Oh, do I still need to share my thoughts about it? Okay, umm...David Sedaris is wonderful and this book is wonderful too.

“This left me alone to solve the coffee problem - a sort of catch-22, as in order to think straight I need caffeine, and in order to make that happen I need to think straight.”

Apathy and Other Small Victories
by. Paul Neilan

A comedy about a man living a life that is not ideal.

Jeez, that was a hard one to summarize. The whole book is kind of like that summary to Seinfeld: it's about nothing. Like Seinfeld it isn't really about the plot, it's about the character, his comedic views, and his misadventures, both ordinary and ridiculous. It has an interesting style of writing; I want to say it is done in a steam-of-consciousness style, but it isn't quite that. If you enjoyed the movie Office Space you would probably like this book.

“The fact is any time spent at work not sleeping in the bathroom is wasted time.”

by. M.T. Anderson

In a future where ads are beamed directly into our brains, two young kids fall in love. A stark depiction of the consequences we pay for senseless consumerism.

The whole thing is kind of like if Fahrenheit 451 was aimed at young teens. From a kid's point of view, that means it is much more appealing: the characters are their age and it deals with things they can relate to. It is a really good book for younger crowd. However, even though I'm perfectly aware they were aiming for two completely different demographics in two completely different time periods, I still feel compelled to say that Ray Bradbury's was better.

“…It’s like a spiral: They keep making everything more basic so it will appeal to everyone. And gradually, everyone gets used to everything being basic, so we get less and less varied as people, more simple. So the corps make everything even simpler. And it goes on and on.”

Don't Get Too Comfortable
by. David Rakoff

Another collection of essays by David Rakoff.

I remember even less about this one than I did the last one. I think I liked it better though. David Rakoff is kind of like an upper class version of David Sedaris.

“Too many were the early mornings spent sitting at the table, insomniac in the gray dawn, thinking to myself, Eggs would be good. Not for eating but for the viscous wrath of my ovobarrage. It seemed only a matter of time before I was lobbing my edible artillery out the window at the army of malefactors who daily made my life such a buzzing carnival of annoyance. I could almost feel the satisfying, sloshy heft of my weapons as I imagined them leaving my hands and raining down upon my targets...All would taste my All Natural, Vegetarian Feed, Grade A Extra Large brand of justice!”

16. *
by. Davy Rothbart

A collection of found letters, notes, photographs, and so much more.

There is a voyeuristic thrill that comes from reading these. I don't know what else to say. It's a collection of the little snippets from other people's lives for you to peruse and ponder over like a wannabe archaeologist. It's good fun.

“Don't take mattress. Leanne died on it. Shame on you. Apt. 306.”

Geek Love
by. Katherine Dunn

The story of a family of carnival freaks. One has psychic powers, one starts a cult, another tries to find love, and they all try to get by.

Weird as shit, but highly entertaining. If you like circus freaks you'll be sure to get a kick out of it. If you don't like circus freaks you'll probably get a creepier sort of kick out of it.

“They thought to use and shame me but I win out by nature, because a true freak cannot be made. A true freak must be born.”

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by. Dave Eggers

The story of a man who has to take care of his brother after their parents die.

Definitely an unusual book. Beautiful but strange. It is all written in a kind of self referential stream of consciousness style that's hard to describe. I'm not really doing it justice, but it is very interesting, very intimate, and very, very good.

“Because secrets do not increase in value if kept in a gore-ian lockbox, because one's past is either made useful or else mutates and becomes cancerous. We share things for the obvious reasons: it makes us feel un-alone, it spreads the weight over a larger area, it holds the possibility of making our share lighter. And it can work either way - not simply as a pain-relief device, but, in the case of not bad news but good, as a share-the-happy-things-I've-seen/lessons-I've-learned vehicle. Or as a tool for simple connectivity for its own sake, a testing of waters, a stab at engagement with a mass of strangers.”

John Dies at the End
by. David Wong

After getting dosed with a crazy drug John's eyes are opened to the world of the paranormal. Unable to stop seeing these strange things he is forced to deal with them and it takes him on one crazy journey.

This book is just so bizarre and I love it to death. It moves between being scary and laugh out loud funny. I love this book and one day I will own it and that is all I have to say about that.

“Let's say you have an ax. Just a cheap one, from Home Depot. On one bitter winter day, you use said ax to behead a man. Don't worry, the man was already dead. Or maybe you should worry, because you're the one that shot him.”

Three Cups of Tea (Young Readers Edition)
by. Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin

The true story of how Greg Mortenson built a school in rural Pakistan and how education can change lives.

I accidentally requested the young readers edition. I'm not really sure what the differences are besides the obvious fact that this one tried to teach me what words like Avalanche meant. Pretty moving stuff. It gives a fascinating look into what life is like in that part of the world and the dramatic difference education can have on both individuals and socities.

“Once you educate the boys, they tend to leave the villages and go search for work in the cities, but the girls stay home, become leaders in the community, and pass on what they’ve learned. If you really want to change a culture, to empower women, improve basic hygiene and health care, and fight high rates of infant mortality, the answer is to educate girls.”

The Manual of Detection
by. Jedediah Berry

A clerk charged with handling the paperwork of the most prominent detective in the agency must become an agent himself when that ace goes missing. With only the Manual of Detection for reference he has to solve the case. However, it seems there is a chapter missing: the chapter on Dream Detection. Turns out dreams can be manipulated and invaded. His new job just got a whole lot harder.

First of all the book was written before Inception. So I don't want to hear any jibber jabber about this book ripping it off. It was interesting, but it ended up getting a bit convoluted for me towards the end. Interesting ideas though. I loved the clerk detective. He is awesome.

“The expert detective’s pursuit will go unnoticed, but not because he is unremarkable. Rather, like the suspect’s shadow, he will appear as though he is meant to be there.”

The Sparrow
by. Mary Doria Russell

After journeying to an alien planet, Father Emilio Sandoz is the only one to come back alive. However, his body has been horribly mutilated and his psyche traumatized. If that wasn't enough his rescuers claim he is guilty of heinous acts, including prostitution and murder. After years of refusing to talk about the events that ruined his life Sandoz finally recounts what happened on the planet.

A truly beautiful story that is profoundly sad. It's about the joys of love, both for others and for God. But it is also about the pain of loss, both of those close to you and of God. You spend the whole book wondering what happened to the guy and then you find out and wish you hadn't. I mean...holy shit. If you're up for riding an emotional roller coaster you won't find a better one.

“There's an old Jewish story that says in the beginning God was everywhere and everything, a totality. But to make creation, God had to remove Himself from some part of the universe, so something besides Himself could exist. So he breathed in, and in the places where God withdrew, there creation exists.”

“So God just leaves?”

“No. He watches. He rejoices. He Weeps. He observes the moral drama of human life and gives meaning to it by caring passionately about us, and remembering.

Matthew ten, verse twenty-nine: Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.

But the sparrow still falls.”

Unseen Academicals
by. Terry Pratchett

The city's wizards find out that in order to continue getting all their needs paid for by the government they are required to field a soccer team and one more thing: they can't use any magic.

Pratchett turns his satirical lens onto the world of soccer and sports in general. I throughly enjoyed it, but I think I would have liked it more if I knew more about soccer. Regardless, it is an interesting take on the role of sports in society, as well as a fun story about underdogs fighting for what makes them happy.

“Well, yes, but it's not about the football.”
“You're saying that football is not about football?”
“It's the sharing,” she said. “It's being part of the crowd. It's chanting together. It's all of it. The whole thing.”

Guinea Pig Diaries:
My Life as an Experiment

by. A.J. Jacobs

A.J. Jacobs puts his life to the test, with each chapter depicting a different experiment. How much of his life can he outsource? What is it like living by George Washington's rules on decorum? How will practicing radical honesty effect his relationships? What will happen when he agrees to do whatever his wife tells him to for a month? The answer to all these questions is: Hilarity.

Oh, A.J. Jacobs. You are delightful. This book is both hilarious and enthralling. I don't know how to describe it but Jacobs' books are always so great, not just because of the crazy situations he imposes on himself, but also because you really feel like you are connected to him. For being so silly his stories are surprisingly intimate and therein lies their charm.

“Plus, in one of his e-mails, the guy said he didn't like pancakes. What kind of asshole doesn't like pancakes?”

The Pluto Files
by. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson goes over the history of Pluto, from discovery to today, from planet to dwarf and all the controversy inbetween.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an amazing fellow. He is just so adept at making science accesible and through that he is able to explain why there was so much scientific controversy behind Pluto. I should also mention that the hate mail he got from little kids is particularly wonderful.

“Dear Dr. neil Tyson degrasse,
At first, remember all of those kids that send you bad letters? Well, I want to apoliJize all the things that we were wrong about. We're sorry you mean letters, saying we love pluto but not you. I'm very sorry. It'll be ok.
age 7.”